What Writers Need To Do To Be Successful
Many people want to be writers. Most of those writers will never achieve any sort of professional success. More importantly, a lot of them won’t ever feel emotional or psychological fulfilment from their writing. That’s due to a key problem with the average writing mindset that I’m going to address in this article – as well as how to practice writing.
My friend James posted an interesting line on Twitter today which made me think about this. You can see it below but I’ll paraphrase. He said that the great dilemma that bloggers face is that they want to publish material, even though they know it won’t be good when they start, but in order to move through the learning curve, they need to write publishable material.
Here’s the tweet:
Whilst James was talking about blogging, this applies to novelists, copywriters and all sorts of writing. Let’s look into why this dilemma is a false one, and how you can change your writing mindset to immediately see results.
How To Change Your Writing Mindset To Enable Improvement
Before I was a writer, I did a long stint as a musician, and a short stint as a professional musician in various guises.
That’s how I can see the problem with the writing mindset, more appropriately, the mindset problem that a lot of writers face.
When you are a musician, or you want to be a musician, you are expected to put in a lot of hours.
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Sure, there are the overnight sensations and the pop princesses, but to be a musician that is successful organically-that is without a huge marketing budget provided by various media tycoon parents-you need to put in a lot of hours.
Amongst fifteen-year-olds who want to be the next guitar playing rock star, this is a hard pill to swallow. However, stories abound of musicians that spend an ungodly amount of hours practising every night at the expense of everything else in their life.
When you get to a professional level of music, the level of commitment you have to have is insane. You’re expected to practice, play live music, record and otherwise give your life to the art of getting better at it.
Strangely, despite writing being a creative and artistic pursuit, the attitude is a lot different.
Writers are expected to “have a talent” and be good at everything right from the start. Writers tend to shun business skills, and they tend to shun the idea of judging and improving their writing.
They could take a page out of the musician’s handbook.
What Writers Need To Do To Be Successful
The difference between a musician and a writer is that the musician is expected to practice.
That means hours working on their art. When I was a musician, you’d not only have boring teachers that would command you to spend your evenings playing repetitive scales, but you’d also have books full of technical exercises and you’d be expected to learn about the character of a piece and how to embody emotion within your playing or composing.
There are entire books dedicated just to the psychology of particular performances in music.
Writers, on the other hand, are not expected to practice. In fact, the idea that you would write hundreds and thousands of words and not use them professionally is unheard of.
Writers are expected to write one book every year. That’s the equivalent of maybe ninety to a hundred hours of work a year.
A musician, in contrast, is expected to practice for several hours a day and then spend years before they are even remotely considered worthy of playing the tiniest bit part in an orchestra something similar.
Enough with the comparisons; writers don’t ever expect to have to do practice anything. They don’t want to put in many hours, and they don’t want to get things ‘wrong’.
You are going to get things wrong, but you are going to get better as you progress as a writer.
From my experience, you are going to hate most of the material you publish within a few months of publishing it. That’s the learning curve, and that’s the amount you develop. You need to embrace that.
How To Practice Writing
You are not going to get significantly better at writing without practising at it. Hopefully, my above opinions have made it clear why that is the case.
Now I’m going to say what you need to do when you practice writing.
Firstly, you need to read lots and absorb the information. That isn’t how you practice writing though. In the same way that listening to music isn’t practising an instrument.
Let’s talk specifically about how to practice writing.
Hopefully, you’re going to read about how to write. Whether it’s my articles about writing blog articles, or Stephen King’s book On Writing, you’re going to hopefully read about how to get better at writing. If you don’t already do this, then find articles that will help you. Hint: start with my archive.
But again, that isn’t practising. What you need to do with those reading materials is take them and create exercises from them if they don’t include exercises.
For instance, if you’re reading a book about how to write a novel, then you need to take notes and use the material to actually try and write a novel. That’s the first step.
The second step is to take good examples of what you want to write and copy them out. Better yet, use this exercise that I developed the other day to turn good examples of writing into your own templates for future use.
The third and most important step is to write. You should write a lot of material. Not all of it is going to be publishable. However, a lot of it will be publishable-either immediately or after a few revisions.
Something that is brilliant about writing is that you can come back to your work – days, weeks, months or even years later, and make it better. There is nothing stopping you from doing this.
There are revised issues of everything from the average blog post to The Lord of the Rings.
Multiple editions of great fiction works exist and if Charles Dickens could go back and fix his work after the fact, then nobody is going to mind if you do too.
The fourth thing you need to do when it comes to practising is fix your mistakes. You’re going to make them. You’re going to get better at writing, and you are going to hate what you have written in the past should you get consistently better. This doesn’t mean that your work was terrible, (although it might have been,) but it does mean that you can do better.
That doesn’t mean that you literally have to rewrite everything you’ve ever written that’s not quite up to standard anymore, but it means you have to learn from your mistakes and make sure you don’t make them again in your new work.
For instance, there are things that I have done in the past that I wouldn’t do now.
Those four steps will give you more progress and quicker success most of the advice you find online anywhere else for that matter.
Let’s address one final concern.
When Will You Be Ready To Publish?
You might think that I’m suggesting that you don’t publish material from what I’ve written above.
After all, you’re going to be rubbish at writing to start with, and you’re going to get better and you are going to hate the material you’ve written in the past.
However, I believe the exact opposite.
I think that you should start publishing material as soon as you can write full sentences and make a coherent point. There are thousands, if not millions, of authors who finish work and then leave it in a drawer never to let it see the light of day again.
They do not learn anything from this, and neither will you.
The fear of being found out as a “bad writer” kills more authors’ careers than actual bad reviews do.
You will write bad material. Sometimes, you might get a negative review on that bad material. You will learn from this.
You will also get positive reviews. You’ll find aspects of your writing that you enjoy, that you’re good at, and that you can take to new levels if you allow yourself to. This is also part of the learning curve.
Publish your material, because otherwise you’re just playing at being a writer. The fear and nervousness at publishing is part of the learning curve as well. The sooner you get over that, the quicker you are going to get into the habit of writing quickly and efficiently, and the quicker you are going to get into the habit of successful writing and publishing.
If there’s one take away from reading this article, it’s that you need to practice. Most of that is getting into the mindset that words are commodities and assets that you can write and then publish and forget.
Every hour you spend writing is an hour that you are probably going to get better at writing.
Every article you publish is a learning experience and an experience which will lead to you getting more feedback and better writing skills in the end.
Using the four steps I’ve highlighted in this article, you are going to get better at writing on a scale that most people aren’t going to be able to match.
With that, I will leave you to get on with some writing practice!
Let me know how it goes.